Furman’s defense records its first shutout since 2004
Photo Credit: Furman University Sports Information
Furman used its first shutout since 2004 to start a season 2-0 for the first time since 2014, as the Paladins posted a 26-0 win on the road over Tennessee Tech Saturday afternoon at Tucker Stadium.
The Golden Eagles start the season 0-2 against Southern Conference teams, getting outscored 78-14 by both Furman and Samford (52-14) to open the 2021 season.
There were several unknowns for the Furman football team coming into the season, however, none of those unknowns included the Paladin defense. The shutout pitched by the Furman defense marked the first since 2004, when the Paladins went to Elon and posted a 10-0 win on Oct. 23, 2004.
Furman held the Golden Eagles to just 121 yards of total offense on the day, out-gaining the Golden Eagles by 250 yards (371-121).
Furman’s defense forced nine Tennessee Tech punts, picked off three passes, and sacked Tennessee Tech quarterbacks three times in imposing complete dominance throughout 60 minutes of football. In the second half alone, Furman’s defense allowed just one first down and 18 yards of total offense.
For the game, the Paladin defense held Tennessee Tech to just 23 yards on the ground and 98 through the air. Furman has now held its first two foes of the 2021 season to less than 100 yards on the ground, limiting North Carolina A&T to just 98 yards on the ground in the season opening win last week.
On the offensive side of the football, the Paladins managed the game with precise efficiency, using a heavy dose of Devin Wynn on the ground, while Timmy Bleekrode followed up his three field goal performance in the season-opening win over North Carolina A&T with a career-best four field goals on Saturday, which included a career-long 51-yard field goal to highlight his overall performance.
Bleekrode’s career-long 51-yard field goal came just six seconds into the final quarter, as it brought an end to an 8-play, 40-yard drive.
Following Travis Blackshear’s second INT of the game and third in the first two games of the season, Devin Wynn would score his second and Furman second and final touchdown of the afternoon, as he ran it in from two yards out. Dating back to the final two games of the 2020-21 spring season, Blackshear has now picked off four passes in his last four games.
Wynn finished another strong performance rushing 17 times for 84 yards and a pair of TDs. His two rushing scores give him 27 total in his career, which now ranks him ninth in Furman history.
Furman scored on four of its first five possessions in the opening half of play, utilizing a 42-yard scoring run and field goals of 32, 45 and 25 yards, as the Paladins were able to take a 16-0 lead into the halftime locker room.
Late in the half, Tennessee Tech made a change at quarterback, and it appeared the momentum of the game might be ready to flip to the side of the home team wearing Purple, as Willie Miller replaced Brandon Shanley under center for the Golden Eagles.
However, after the Golden Eagles drove inside Paladin territory, Furman’s defense usurped all momentum back to the visiting sidelines, as Furman stopped the Golden Eagles on a crucial 4th-and-1 play at the Paladin 42, forcing Tennessee Tech to turn the ball over on downs.
On the ensuing possession, the Paladin offense drove the ball 51 yards in 12 plays, culminating with Bleekrode’s 25-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining in the half.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Furman’s final touchdown of the game would be set up by DiMarcus Clay’s interception off a tipped Shanley pass early in the final frame.
Late in the contest, Blackshear picked off his second pass of the day at the Paladin 14 and returned it 42 yards to end Tennessee Tech’s final scoring threat of the day.
Hamp Sisson finished the contest completing 17-of-29 passes for 196 yards, while adding another 25 yards on 10 carries on the ground, finishing the afternoon with 221 yards of total offense.
Sisson’s favorite target in the passing attack for the Paladins was true freshman Joshua Harris, who hauled in five passes for 54 yards, while Zach Peterson had three catches for 52 yards, and All-America tight end finished with three catches for 42 yards.
Furman safety Hugh Ryan led a comprehensive effort by defensive coordinator Duane Vaughn’s defense, posting seven tackles and a tackle-for-loss. Elijah McKoy, Parker Stokes and Seth Johnson accounted for the three sacks posted by Furman.
As you might expect, one peek at the stats sheet following the game shows complete domination in nearly every area. Two that stick out are Furman’s +16 advantage in first downs (22-6) and plays run (80-51).
The Paladins return to the field next week at North Carolina State, with kickoff slated for 7:30 pm on the ACC network. Furman holds a 8-5-4 lead int the all-time series, but the Wolfpack won 49-16 at Carter-Finley in the last meeting between the two programs in 2017.